Category Archives: Mutual Fund Commentary

Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide

By David Snowball

Good news: The US stock indexes are at, or quite near, all-time highs!

Bad news: The US stock indexes are at, or quite near, all-time highs.

Good news: the 3rd quarter of 2018 had the highest returns over any quarter in over five years!

Bad news: the 3rd quarter of 2018 had the highest returns over any quarter in over five years.

Good news: the advance in Continue reading →

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

Before funds can be offered to the public, they’ve got to be submitted to the SEC which has 70 days to review the application. That means that funds hopeful of launching by December 30th need to be filed by October 15th. This month’s 15 new funds, including offerings from both DoubleLine and T. Rowe Price, represent the first part of that year-end wave. Continue reading →

Briefly noted

By David Snowball

The imminence of Halloween reveals itself in the deadened thud as the walking dead move toward the graveyard. Summer saw a curious lull in fund liquidations and manager changes both, but the end of summer is ending that reprieve. Our mid-September and October issues recount 70 obituaries, the vast majority of which were announced in the past 30 days. A precious few were high-performing funds that couldn’t attract attention. There seems to be a pattern in the remainder: lots of funds designed to Continue reading →

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?

By David Snowball

Investors are forever willing to panic themselves at the prospect that their managers have taken Stupid Pillstm. The presumed signs of ingestion: any period of relative underperformance, pretty much without regard to absolute performance, the brevity of the period, its cause or the appropriateness of the peer group.

The automatic urge: running away, either to cash or to an investment with eye-catching recent returns.

Which is, by Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

The imminence of Halloween reveals itself in the deadened thud as the walking dead move toward the graveyard. Summer saw a curious lull in fund liquidations and manager changes both, but the end of summer is ending that reprieve. We’ve tracked 33 obituaries for this issue. A few were high-performing funds that couldn’t attract attention. There seems to be a pattern in the remainder: lots of funds designed to hedge against market volatility, lots of funds designed to hedge against rising prices and a few more funds with exposure to emerging markets. A fusty old curmudgeon might note that liquidations in a category peak at the moment of maximum Continue reading →

August 5, 2018

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Thanks for your patience. The end of July and beginning of August brought a bunch of challenges.

This month’s issue has a lot of interesting content; just not quite so much as we’d planned. With luck, we’ll shift the vast bulk of it to September.

Zoom in to Charles and the MFO Premium walk-through

MFO Premium offers a ridiculous wealth of information for a Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Fidelity ZERO Total Market Index Fund (FZROX) and Fidelity ZERO International Index Fund (FZLIX) 

By David Snowball

We’ve got Coke Zero. We’ve got Pepsi Zero. I guess it’s reasonable to wonder, why not Fidelity Zero?

Wait, we don’t have Coke Zero or Pepsi Zero. They both failed in the marketplace and had to be reformulated, renamed and relaunched.

But we do have Fido Zero.

On August 3, 2018, Fidelity launched two zero/zero index funds sporting zero Continue reading →

Advice not to follow: Inverse ETFs as a hedge

By David Snowball

It’s sensible to think, in advance, about the best responses to a market that is expensive, increasingly volatile and beset by external shocks, from tariffs to rising interest rates and policy instability.

An unauthored piece in ETF Trends recently weighed in with this advice: look at buying inverse or levered inverse ETFs.

With the heightened Continue reading →

Advice not to follow, #2: Avoid ESG funds, they’re losers

By David Snowball

The most consistently strong analyses of US and world markets come from a shrinking handful of sources, The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal prominent among them. MFO maintains a paid subscription to each.

Nonetheless, even they produce the occasional bewildering piece. In “If you want to do good, expect to do badly” (6/29/2018), the Journal’s James Mackintosh revives an old canard. “Investors are increasingly convinced that they can buy companies that behave better than the rest and make just as Continue reading →

July 1, 2018

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to July! You shouldn’t be here.

Welcome to the Observer’s annual “summer light” issue in which you point out the obvious: you need some time away from the headlines, the daily howling, the apocalypse, the partisan glee, the certainty of boom, doom or gloom (to borrow from the name of Marc Faber’s thoughtful reports).

Setting aside the overtly political headlines, here’s a Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

All the developments that are worth knowing but aren’t worth separate stories, including 50 funds that just earned headstones rather than headlines. An absolute disaster? 10% of vanishing funds promising “absolute returns.” Wells Fargo promises that you can trust them, just before announcing millions of additional fines. Tadas moves up, a favorite fund closes quick and hard, Monrad celebrates his 58th and the Mathers Fund leaves this veil of tears after 53 eventful years. Continue reading →

No country for old men

By David Snowball

With a summertime nod to William Butler Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium,” and not so much to the movie that cribbed a line from him.

I

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect. Continue reading →

If you were a manager, you’d be running a managed futures fund

By David Snowball

You may not know it. You may not want to admit it. But you’d certainly be running one.

How do I know? Because managed futures funds operate exactly the way you do. Managed futures funds are momentum investors; they choose some number of asset classes (US stocks, currencies, EM bonds, commodities, whatever) to include in their portfolios. They then invest in the asset classes that show the greatest upward momentum, avoid assets that are drifting, and short those that are falling. You could also imagine a control panel with eight toggle switches, one for each asset class, and three positions for each switch (positive, neutral, negative). Managers look at relative strength data and might flip Continue reading →

Morningstar Minute

By David Snowball

The Mutual Fund Observer is the product of a virtual team and, when our colleagues from England and Trinidad were working with us, a virtual global team. Chip and I reside in Iowa, Ed and Sam in Illinois, Charles in California, Bob C in Ohio and Dennis in Montana. One of the great attractions of the Morningstar conference is that it gives us a chance to work side-by-side on interviews and stories, and to share quick and personal reactions to the ideas and personalities we encounter.

As ever, we’ll try to offer some quick responses in the form of end-of-day posts to Continue reading →